Christmas Eve for our homeless veterans

As we explore the outcomes of the decision to enlist in the armed forces, we also need to understand how someone who wears a uniform out of pride to protect and serve their country can end up homeless.

Most of us are familiar with homeless shelters in our inner cities. These brick, non-descript buildings are a warm place for those who have been dealt a hand of cards in life that most of us could not comprehend. In Detroit, there are several such centers. One of these is home to over 104 veterans.

On Christmas Eve 2016, we focused on the compassion to make sure some of these men (and a few women) had a hot meal. We visited the Ferndale kitchens of The Seed, owned and operated by Jack and Annette Aronson where a hot meal was being prepared for the next day’s meal at the Veteran Center, in conjunction with the Michigan Veterans Foundation.

Tyrone Chatman, Executive Director & CEO of the MVF told us that they have over 100 veterans in transitional housing programs and 30 in their vet rescue program. The foundation has been operating since 1989.

Many people know Jack and Annette Aronson from their family brand Garden Fresh salsa. Having created America’s number one salsa, hummus, and a line of other products, you would think that on Christmas Eve the one place you would not see Jack is in the kitchen stirring jambalaya, organizing trays of sliced turkey and jovially barking out orders to the volunteers, friends and family who for the last five years have made a tradition of serving these homeless veterans on Christmas Eve. Jack Krasula, host of “Anything is Possible” on WJR and Pam Good, CEO of Beyond Basics were also there to lend a hand.

Jack, not content to simply serve one meal, also made sure these veterans had enough food for Christmas day. A big man at 6’7” with an even bigger heart, if you threw a big beard and a red suit on him, he could step in for St. Nick himself.

Jack told us, “There is nowhere I’d rather be than with my family and friends, doing this on Christmas Eve. I don’t care why these service members are here, they are here. It’s important that we as a society understand that if you can help someone in need, do it. It shouldn’t have to be Christmas to show we care for our veterans.”

Jack lives by this – together he and his wife Annette not only support charitable organizations with donations year-round but also spend their time contributing. Having had the pleasure of cooking with Jack the day before Christmas Eve and filming with Jack, Annette and their family and friends at the veteran center, I can assure you they probably get an incredible amount of personal satisfaction out of giving to these veterans.

I think this is why they both smile so much – giving hearts exude warm, loving personalities.

Go here ( for more on this filming and others that will be part of the documentary film, Enlisted, coming 2017.